As Australian industry looks towards decarbonisation, innovative technologies can be key enablers to help reach net zero emissions. The opportunity of algae to aid in carbon capture and storage holds significant potential, owing to the significantly enhanced rate of carbon sequestration (10-50 times as rapid as terrestrial plants) and minimal land use requirements. The project aims to evaluate the potential for carbon capture and storage through algae farming (biosequestration), as a means of reducing the carbon footprint of operational industrial facilities.
Preliminary findings from the precursor to this project (Part 1), indicated through a desktop study and limited modelling, that at present, the concept of algae-based carbon capture is not economically feasible when compared to other net carbon reduction strategies. Part 1 provided further focus areas for this research project to investigate, to continue to assess and potentially improve the feasibility of this carbon reduction strategy.
The research in this current project (Part 2) will build on the work conducted in Part 1 to further assess the fundamental barriers and enablers to achieve successful application of the concept at scales relevant for industrial use. Synergistic benefits of industrial outputs and waste products will be explored, including carbon dioxide and nutrient rich wastewater streams, in combination with the engineering approaches, and site conditions that can act as enablers to optimise carbon reduction, and potentially generate useful by-products.
This project is to be executed as a ¾ CEED format project, for a final year engineering student at the University of Western Australia.
The objectives of the overall project are:
- Evaluate fundamental barriers and enablers to application of the concept.
- Evaluate synergistic benefits of industrial outputs and waste products, including carbon dioxide and nutrient rich wastewater streams.
- Assess process optimisation in engineering approaches and site conditions that can act as enablers to significant carbon reduction, and potentially produce useful by-products.
- Investigate the scaling of the technology from bench to full scale industrial application.
- Evaluate economic viability of the concept, including cost reduction opportunities and carbon offsetting potential.
- Conduct experimentation under site specific conditions to validate research and modelling.
Potential focus areas within the objectives include:
- Evaluate algae growth optimisation strategy. For example, management of salinity, pH, nutrient availability throughout growth phases.
- Evaluate pond and processing design For example, low-cost designs (e.g. pond based) against expensive, high yield (e.g. photobioreactor design) or a hybrid system of both, to maximize yield per hectare in cost effective production scheme. Assessment of the various method to design extraction and processing of algae after growth (e.g. flocculation, screening, centrifugation, dehydration) for energy and cost efficiency.
- Evaluate algae species. There is a range of species which may be suitable to the project. Requires management of trade-offs in growth rate, algae resilience and end product use suitability.
- End-product selection. Evaluate alternative potential end-products including beneficial end-uses e.g. soil amelioration, feed stock
- Evaluate carbon dioxide redirection and distribution. May be a number of suitable approaches to applying carbon dioxide to the system (e.g. bubbling CO2 gas vs conversion to bicarbonate form). Selection of facility emission source to inform whether pre-processing of the gas required due to potential for contaminants in the flue gas (e.g. NOx, SO2, Heavy Metals).